At PAX Unplugged I had the pleasure of speaking with Keith Baker (Twogether Studios) about his newest Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook, Chronicles of Eberron, which came out in early December.
For those not familiar, Eberron is a campaign setting dating back to D&D 3.5. It blends the traditional high fantasy setting of D&D with darker elements like the Mournland which asks "What would magical nuclear fallout look like?". The setting also places greater emphasis on political intrigue, and blends technology with magic to create marvels like floating cities and high speed, continent-spanning trains. It's a genuinely interesting world that feels very different from standard D&D settings thanks to its noir and pulp adventure influences, all while still feeling familiar enough to be approachable.
The setting creator himself at PAX Unplugged. He's alongside a Warforged, a now fan favorite character option that was introduced in Eberron.
Keith Baker won Wizards of the Coast’s 2002 Fantasy Setting Search contest which allowed the Eberron campaign setting to be born. While Eberron has gotten official books published in Dungeons and Dragons' 4th and 5th editions, the original creator of the series wanted a chance to keep filling out the world for those who were interested. I was fortunate enough to sit down with him during PAX Unplugged and hear all about it right from the source.
What Is Chronicles of Eberron?
Chronicles of Eberron is an unofficially-official sourcebook for the Eberron campaign setting. It's written by the man who designed that setting in the first place, but not published through Wizards of the Coast. Chronicles contains a mix of broad concepts and deep dives into particular bits of lore that Keith finds especially interesting, and that aren’t covered in either this book’s precursor Exploring Eberron, or the official WOTC sourcebook Rising From the Last War.
I started our interview by asking Keith for the elevator pitch for Chronicles of Eberron. This is what he had to say:
“…it covers a wide range [of topics], both little things that were never really addressed, all the way out to just basic advice.”
Some of the things he specifically mentioned include:
- A chapter all about Session Zero—setting up a campaign that will be fun and welcoming for all of your players.
- What the average person in Eberron knows (or believes) about various topics, including gods, cults, and the history of the region.
- Rules and setting information for aquatic or undersea civilizations.
- An in-depth explanation of the astral plane.
- The “Dark Six”: Six deities who are traditionally viewed as evil, and why the truth about them is a lot more gray than people think.
All told, Chronicles of Eberron has 22 chapters and over 200 pages of new information about one of D&D’s most famous settings. While Rising From The Last War is a great primer on how the setting is different in major ways, Chronicles digs deeper into the differences between this setting and a romp in a more immediate high fantasy setting like Forgotten Realms.
What’s This Book For?
The obvious answer is that Chronicles of Eberron is for people who are running a campaign in Eberron, or interested in starting one, and looking for more details about the setting. However, any of the points I listed above could be adapted for use in other settings too. You could add a bit of Eberron’s version of the astral plane to your Spelljammer game, or make your evil deities and their cults a bit less cartoonishly evil.
Perhaps the most important thing that this book does is flesh out Eberron characteristics that were originally just background details. One example is how the city of Sharn exists partly in the plane of air, allowing for floating towers where the wealthier citizens can literally look down on the poorer ones. If you were a fan of the 3.5 edition books like Sharn: City of Towers, these supplemental books on Eberron are right up your alley. Reading Chronicles of Eberron is also great practice for looking at setting details and coming up with new ideas of your own; dungeon masters who are building their own homebrews can find a lot of inspiration here.
This artwork was on the inside of a 3rd edition D&D book, but still captures all the Eberron flavor you want. A flying taxi in a fantasy city filled with skyscrapers, having a shootout with gnolls.
With all of that said, it’s worth noting that Keith does not recommend this book for people who are looking to make their first forays into Eberron. He suggests the official sourcebook, Rising From the Last War, as the best starting point for that.
What’s Next for Eberron?
Keith’s next big project is finishing Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold, another sourcebook that he’s been working on since 2020, but has been delayed due to the pandemic and other projects. He’s estimating that Threshold will be about as big as the official Eberron sourcebook, but with a relatively narrow focus on the kingdoms of Breland (one of the key nations in the setting) and Droaam (a nation of monster races such as gnolls and ogres, run by hags!). He’s also promised that it will have a distinctly Wild West flavor, featuring concepts that already exist in the setting like wandslingers and lightning rails, giving players more options and unique things to do. He’s hoping that Frontiers of Eberron will hit shelves sometime in mid-2023.
Finally, during our interview I noted that the Eberron setting has been more or less frozen in time, taking place right after the end of the Last War. I asked whether there were any plans to advance the timeline, but Keith said that he felt doing so would take away agency from the players and DMs who have already made major plot decisions in their own campaigns. He did mention that he and his team had been throwing ideas around about either writing a book set in Eberron’s past, or advancing the timeline by decades so that in-game plot decisions could be glossed over and still make sense in the context of the new book.
It was great to spend time with the creator of a whole D&D setting and get their perspective on a world that feels very lived in, filled with mystery and intrigue. There's a lot of places it could go next, but for right now Keith is focused on finishing Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold. If you want to know more about Eberron, definitely check out the official campaign setting book; if its something that makes you curious for more, then its time to look at Keith Baker's direct source material like Chronicles of Eberron so you can keep diving in deeper.